Timing as a window on cognition in schizophrenia

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Distorted interval timing is a common feature of the cognitive impairment observed in patients with schizophrenia. The neural circuits which are required for interval timing and those thought to be compromised in schizophrenia overlap and include the cortico-striatal pathways. Here, we suggest that a focus on temporal information processing offers a window into understanding the cognitive deficits of schizophrenia and how deficits might contribute to a variety of symptoms. A disruption in the functioning of the cortico-striatal pathways may lead to cognitive deficits which in turn lead to impaired processing of temporal information. Disrupted temporal processing may also contribute to a variety of other symptoms associated with the disorder. Because interval timing is a cognitive/behavioral phenotype that can easily be assessed in animals it can be used as a sensitive screen for deficits in animal models. Using a recently developed transgenic mouse that models increased D2 receptor upregulation in the striatum similar to that observed in patients with schizophrenia we illustrate the utility of an interval timing approach in assessing cognitive impairment. We further discuss how variants of timing procedures can be used to assess attention and working memory performance as well as other necessary components of adaptive cognitive function.

This article is a part of a special issuse entitled ‘Schizopherenia’.


▸ Patients with schizophrenia show deficits in interval timing. ▸ The neural circuits affected in schizophrenia and mediating interval timing overlap. ▸ Studying interval timing is a powerful strategy to understand cognition. ▸ Animal models are well suited to do this.

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